Opening up U.S. assistance programs to LGBT populations

Opening up U.S. assistance programs to LGBT populationsA little green dot marks December 6 on our calendar for last year. That’s the day the President issued his Memorandum instructing all USG foreign affairs agencies to use our diplomatic and foreign assistance tools to promote the fair and equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide. It’s also the day that Secretary Clinton gave a landmark address at the historic League of Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, making the case for why LGBT rights are human rights; why these rights are universal; and why we are obligated, as an international community, to ensure that LGBT rights are protected in every country around the globe.

The USG agencies identified in the President’s memorandum are required to report back to him no later than June 6 on the steps being undertaken to fulfill his directive. A State Department working group is helping guide the process.  And at USAID, a new, senior-level “SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) Coordinator” position soon will be filled.Developmental assistance programs play a critical role  in how U.S. values are understood abroad. The construct of those programs is no less critical in meeting the needs of vulnerable populations in partner foreign countries. Beginning today and continuing over the following three days, we will set forth in this blog some of the issues that should be considered as the USG configures its foreign assistance programs to support the President’s directive and policy vision. These include questions of:

  • Substantive reach:  Which foreign assistance programs will be consciously and deliberately targeted to include LGBT populations?  How are we to ensure that the needs of the LGBT populations are considered in those programs?  How will this new priority be valued within agencies that house foreign assistance programs, and how will those charged with oversight of relevant programs be evaluated in terms of their commitment to realizing this program priority?
  • Conditionality of U.S. assistance programs:  Conditioning assistance programs on a set of behaviors by recipient countries is a controversial issue within the developmental assistance and human rights communities. Given that some USG assistance recipients may resist efforts to meet the needs of their LGBT citizens, how will the U.S. approach that question? Will LGBT populations be included in each foreign aid recipient country, regardless of the views of the host government? And how will the Administration engage the broader human rights community on issues of LGBT discrimination that arise during the course of our assistance relationships?
  • Interagency authority: USG assistance programs are spread out over multiple USG agencies. Will there be some central mechanism that can monitor progress, and ensure that agency programs are not redundant, and that their overarching goals are not only complementary, but synergistic? And how can we ensure that the face of USG assistance to the outside world is consistent with regard to what clearly is a presidential priority?

Opening up U.S. assistance programs to LGBT populations can positively impact, and even save, many lives. We look forward to a committed, cross-agency response to the need that the President and Secretary Clinton have identified, and to a strong partnership between the Administration and the NGO community aimed at ensuring that U.S. foreign assistance reflects traditional American support for equality, fairness and justice for all.

Related: Working Toward Policy Coherence

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